Friday, 17 May 2013

Fixing the engine room

A year ago I thought we were short of a holding midfield general. Lawrie Wilson was recruited but he was clearly a right-sider. Salim Kerkar also came in but he was a left-footer. So, we started the season with Danny Hollands and Dale Stephens in the middle.

Stephens had been the subject of a much publicised bid from Aston Villa that I thought we should have gobbled-up. After ten games Hollands was dropped and loaned back to League One and Dale Stephens was also rested. We had dropped to 16th and it wasn't working, especially at home where we had failed to win in five consecutive home matches. We were being over-run in the centre of midfield and visiting teams were being encouraged to come forward and attack us.

We struggled for much of the season at home to find a settled pairing and we began to rely on five in the middle which left us short up front with the obvious consequences, especially when played at home when you expect to take games to your opponents. Bradley Pritchard and Johnnie Jackson were the other obvious options but Dervite was tried early on and Manny Frimpong loaned in as we looked for the winning formula. It wasn't until the last eight games that we found a workable solution in the over-looked Hughes with Jackson and by then we had also brought Mark Gower in from Swansea.

If we are to challenge seriously next season I believe we need to sort centre-mid and we probably need two better options. Danny Hollands returned from loan but I suspect the die is cast in terms of his long-term future. Dale Stephens is again subject of transfer speculation and I think he needs to move for the sort of money we were offered a year ago. He may well look a better player in Villa's side. With Kerkar and Wagstaff being shown the door, there aren't many left to consider.

Johnnie Jackson came in for some stick half-way through the season which looked hard and he came back to resume scoring and help fire our winning finish. He is good enough at this level in my mind and his goal contribution is invaluable. He is our Frankie Lampard.

Bradley Pritchard has worked his socks off but I do wonder where his place is in the side as he's not a wide player, nor a holding midfielder so you would rely on him to create and I am not sure he is good enough for that role just yet.

Andrew Hughes (he refers to himself as Andrew) added much needed bite but I wonder if he could sustain that for another full season. His contract is up in July and I suspect he might jump at the opportunity of a northern club where can be closer to his family and which might give him a chance to play his way into a management position when he finishes. I would like to see him stay for one more season.

That leaves the wingers and we have been short here and we need much better to fire a promotion bid.With Kerkar and Wagstaff gone, we look certain to bring new faces in. Callum Harriott has made the transition from boy to man and he should command his place next season on the left. Lawrie Wilson is capable on the right but hasn't nailed the position. He works for me but may find he has competition. Danny Green is still there but he has blown hot and cold like Scott Wagstaff and, like Waggy, always looks better from the bench. 

In summary, we need a classy, experienced midfielder general and probably need to find a Premier League player who may be struggling to get into his side or who might be looking to go down a league. We could do with another centre-mid option, ideally a left-sider who could cover Harriott, although Johnnie Jackson could fill that role if we were better covered centrally.

With Ricard Fuller and Danny Haynes being released, my assessment of our striking options won't take long when I get around to it.


Addickted4life said...

I agree with most of what you've said, however Pritchard is clearly ready to be a creative player, just look at where he is on the assist stats for this season:,,10794~20127,00.html

Dave said...

Addickted4life - interesting. In good company with Reid and Trippier. He ddi finally weigh in with some important goals too. If we can find the missing piece, then he and Jackson could compete for the creative role..